Monthly Archives: June 2014

Our pain, the unspeakable emotional agony of a nation….

A few weeks ago someone called me and asked, “Why is it that bad things happen to amazing people?”

I told her, people become amazing over the course of time and it’s the tragedy or difficulties that reveal the shining diamonds they are.

This has been something I’ve thought about for the last 18 days, as in every report of the parents of the three kidnapped teens I’ve been struck by how special each family is.

Every single boy that was kidnapped – a gem.  Smart, caring, responsible, gifted: youth counselors, musicians, composers, bakers.  Each one of a large family raised with boundless love and strong Torah values.

A picture of the two sixteen year olds a day before they were kidnapped with friends; Gil-ad on the center part of the tier and Naftali (US citizen) on the bottom. Regular kids on a spring day? Look closely - Gilad and Naftali the day before they were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Abbas, step up and bring them home!</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/reflections-of-a-mother/<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Click on this blog and leave your comments, please.

Eyal Yifrach , a nineteen year old songwriter and guitarist, June 10 a few days before his kidnapping sings one of his original compositions with a friend (Eyal is in the white t-shirt).  He commented right before they sang that he looked forward to singing this in the near future at this friend’s wedding.  I put this on my playlist and have listened to it often, praying all the time for his safe return along with the other two boys.

Here’s Eyal singing another original composition that he wrote in honor of his cousin’s wedding and performed for her then.  This was two months before the kidnapping.   My sister commented on the strong resemblance between Eyal and one of my sons.  Yes, I also noticed it right away.

And then their parents… These parents…the faith and strength they have displayed has been amazing.  They have spoken of trust in God, in the strength of the Jewish people and with the full belief that their sons will return home, healthy and safe.  Every single parent has inspired us all.

Last night between 85,000 – 100,000 people came together in Tel Aviv, people from across the religious spectrum – to pray for the safe return of our boys.  The kind of event that the families wanted, that their sons would have wanted.  A gathering of solidarity and unity.  That’s how the people of Israel feel – they are ours.

I read the reports today of the Tel Aviv gathering, thinking how the Jewish people coming together in this way, setting aside politics, is bringing completion and wholeness to the world.  We so desperately need unity, and these last 18 days have brought our tiny little country together.

So many prayers, so many tears, so many good deeds done as a merit for the safe return of our boys… And now they’ve been found.  Truly.

My first reaction was one of delight and disbelief – found, so soon after the gathering!  God has heard our prayers!

And then I saw the next line of the message…and I burst into bitter sobs.  No, no, no!!  Not this, it can’t be.  It must be a false report, false rumors…I wouldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it.

It was true.  It is true.  This afternoon our boys were found murdered, buried together in a shallow grave in a field near an Arab village.

It is believed that they were shot shortly after their abduction, with the intent to exchange their bodies for the release of Arab terrorists.

Below, the windows of the army ambulance Humvee transporting the bodies of our slain boys are smashed, stoned by Arabs as they are returned home for burial.

8:44pm IDF Ambulance humvee transporting the bodies of the boys attacked by arabs....windows smashed.

I have no words… what I’m feeling threatens to overwhelm me.  I think that most of us are feeling something very similar tonight.  Deep, deep sadness, followed by horror, rage, fury – these are some of the emotions racing through us all.

I have no wisdom…I know that our prayers were not in vain, that the merits of all the good deeds performed have been gathered and are being saved for our nation, while simultaneously accompanying our boys on their journey in the next world.  But the pain, the gut-wrenching pain…

Our boys…now sitting in the highest Heavenly spheres.

left to right: Naftali Frenkel (16), Gil-ad Sha’ar(16), Eyal Yifrach (19)
I asked you to say tehillim/psalms for the boys with the hope they would be found.  Please join in the saying of tehillim for them now, as a continued merit for their souls.  You can participate online here.

May their memories be a blessing, may we continue to hold on to the incredible feelings of unity that we had these past 18 days and may God avenge their blood.

Jo Corre Odes's photo.

 

Please pray for the parents of the boys, and for the siblings that each leaves behind (Eyal was the oldest of 7, Naftali and Gil-ad both the second of 7), that they find whatever they need inside themselves to cope with this horror.

Avivah

Great buys on books during Book Week = happy kids and happy mother!

IMG_3350Every year in Israel there is what is known as Book Week, which is really book month, when bookstores all over have great sales in the month of June.  Last year it wasn’t on my radar, but I was in Jerusalem for an appointment with Yirmi and I just happened to walk into an area that had huge amounts of books for sale.

I had a tight schedule because I had a bus to make, and within ten minutes I managed to make my purchases, a five volume set of children’s parsha stories as well as a laminated copy of the 39 Melachos Shabbos book by Baruch Chait.

Those were purchases that we’ve gotten a lot of mileage from.  The set of parsha books were a particularly good buy since they were discounted about 30% since there was some kind of damage – the damage varied but the books I chose were very minor, like the imprint of a line on the back cover, nothing major.  This was my main book purchase for the year, other than 60 shekels on used books throughout the year.

I knew that I wanted to do some more book buying for our homeschooling and when I was in Jerusalem for the Temech conference earlier this week, I had my chance!  Finding books that I wanted was a challenge; I like well written books that aren’t overly preachy or obviously intended to be educational, and so many books have beautiful illustrations but the text leaves something to be desired.   I want the books to be interesting enough for my kids to pick them up and read them on their own.

I finally settled on a laminated illustrated copy of Megilat Esther/Book of Esther, a picture book of 1000 words in Hebrew, and 3 Hebrew copies of Tintin.  The Megilat Esther has a basic drawing that looks similar in each page but many details change from page to page so I thought the kids would enjoy this.  The laminated versions of books are heavy duty and will last for many years but the downside of it is that it’s so much more expensive.  The cover of this book looked used though the inside was perfect so I got this for 50 shekels instead of 118; I could have gotten a new unlaminated version for the same price but for our family this was the better choice.

The 1000 word book is for my kids to learn the words in Hebrew for things they already know in English; it has beautiful photos and is engaging (50 shekels).  The Tintin books are because my kids love Tintin in English so that makes it a good segue into encouraging Hebrew reading.   A plus is the text in a couple of the books is in Hebrew script so this is great practice in reading script.  Usually these are each 88 shekels but I got all three for 100.

The next day I went to Steimatsky’s book store, since I had a 100 shekel credit that’s been sitting in my wallet since July.  I wasn’t purposely holding on to it for Book Week but it worked out beautifully!  We had the credit from a children’s siddur we bought that had buttons you can push to hear the prayers but it wasn’t what I wanted and the credit for it was basically enough to buy one other book.  I decided I wanted to get a laminated world map for the wall with our credit, but the store didn’t have one.  The clerk called two other stores in walking distance; one didn’t have a map and the other wasn’t answering the phone.  Since it was just a few minutes walk away, I went over to ask in person if they had a map.

They didn’t, but what they did have was a totally different selection of sale books than the first store I was in (which hadn’t interested me much).

There was a sale table where you could choose three books for the price of the most expensive of the three.  One book immediately caught my eye and I knew I had to get it; it was a illustrated procession of how Jerusalem looked from Biblical times until today. Each time period has a two page spread filled with many illustrative details.  I knew my kids would love this and they would learn lots without even knowing it.  (As it turned out, I’m already learning lots from it- ds8 asked me which time period Alexander the Great lived in, and I wasn’t sure so I said, “Hmm, good question, we’ll have to look that up!”)  This is a very well-done book, as interesting for me as for the kids.  There’s only one paragraph of text on each page, but around the border there are tiny pictures that correspond to something in the larger picture with a fact about it.

IMG_3350

That was 89 shekels, and then I found two more books that were also 89 shekels – both are heavy duty board books with lots of flaps to lift up; these are geared toward the elementary aged child based on the information and is sturdy enough to stand up to lots of usage.  One is all about the human body, with pictures of different physical processes inside (eg digestion) and the other is How Things Work; both are in Hebrew.

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the map but I ended up much better off – with my credit I was able to get all three of these books for just 89 shekels (because of the special sale for Book Week – next week it will be full price again), and had some change left over to buy the kids some erasers as well!  (Steimatsky isn’t a cheap store so the erasers were the only thing inexpensive enough to use my eleven remaining shekels for, just in time for their summer online drawing lessons!)

The kids are devouring the books and of course that makes me happy.  :)

Then the next day I returned some books I borrowed to a friend who is moving, who offered me six volumes of the Magic School Bus chapter books.  Do you think I turned that down?  No way!  And then she remembered she had some other books she was giving away and did I want to look through them?  Sure!  I came home with two bags of books.

And guess what??? Just a couple of hours later, ds8 came in after playing outside with friends and told me he found something he thought I would like.  I asked him to show me what he found and he ran to get a boxed copy of a laminated world map in Hebrew – in brand new condition!!!  (Ds just informed me that the listed price on this was 49.90.)  Someone was giving it away and he found it outside where they had left it.  He had no idea that I had wanted this and was surprised at how excited I was.

But you understand why, right? :)

Avivah

Why practicing gratitude will change your life

gratitudeEarlier this week I traveled to Jerusalem for the Temech business conference, an event geared specifically to religious women.  The organizer is one of my blog readers and I was delighted to meet her – and other blog readers- there.

I had a fantastic time connecting with so many people!  This was the best thing and worst thing about the conference – too many great people to talk to! – and I missed the last session that I wanted to sit in on because of my shmoozing.  :)

Naturally I heard other women saying how wonderful and empowering it was, and I also heard some grumbles.  It made me think about how quick people are to complain and how slow they are to express their appreciation.

Several weeks ago I completed a repair in my building that was part of a problem for eight years.  I took on the job of building representative in the beginning of August and at that time I hired someone who located the leaks in the building and then took care of getting them fixed. The final part of the repairs was to replace the tiles that had been pulled up in the entranceway of the building before I took over.  These had been left open because they didn’t want to close up the flooring only to have to rip it up again if the pipes there were the cause of the leaks.

IMG_3315

I spent months speaking to all the members of the building until I got a majority of people to sign that they agreed to have the entrance way repaired.  That gave me the legal backing to do the repairs.  But it still meant I had to get everyone to pay, which was very, very difficult.  This was a huge stress for me.

Someone in the building called me when I was in the hospital after I was burned and asked how she could help. I told her I was feeling very pressured that I hadn’t yet collected money from everyone, and the biggest thing she could do for me was to speak to the three people who hadn’t yet paid.  She agreed and I was very grateful for this because it took a huge weight off my head.  The only problem was that these are tough people to deal with. So this woman trying to help was brought to tears when speaking to them because the way they talk is to yell and attack you, and I was left to collect the rest of the money on my own.  (Yes, being yelled at and attacked.  Fun times.)

There were many hours put into getting this done and many, many steps involved in what could have been a very simple repair.  17 months after the floor was left broken open and nine months after I began the process of getting this repair done, I had the entrance flooring completed.  It was such a huge accomplishment that I felt like throwing myself a party.  But I mentally prepared myself to not be thanked, not for the many hours I put into getting it done, nor the end result.  That’s human nature, to comment only when something is wrong.

Good thing.  Not only was there hardly a word of thanks, but the next morning someone yelled up to me through my window – from outside – that the building was disgusting and dirty since the floor hadn’t been mopped after the repair was done!  It couldn’t be mopped after the tiling was done since it had to be left to dry overnight, but it had been thoroughly swept.   After almost a year and a half of daily looking at this eyesore and safety hazard, she couldn’t spend literally one moment to appreciate that it was fixed.

That’s how some people are, no matter what they only see what they don’t have.  Some people actually look for things to be miserable about.  This is the key to having a miserable life!  Look for everything in life that doesn’t line up for what you want and then complain to everyone you see about what a miserable life you are and how much you suffer.  Ignore everything good that happens and take it for granted as your due.

Several weeks ago I received a note from a blog reader expressing her appreciation for what I write.   I’m blessed with a high quality readership and always appreciate when readers take the time to let me know if something I’ve written has been helpful for them.  In this case, she not only wrote but took the extra effort to put a card in the mail to me from overseas!  As nice as it was for me to receive, the person writing it got just as much as I did from the act of writing and sending it.  You know what she got?

She reinforced with her action the kind of person she wants to be and the kind of life she wants to have.  Writing that card made her a more thoughtful, caring and appreciative person, and as a result she’ll have a more fulfilling and happy life.

Expressing gratitude can be hard, since it means acknowledging that someone enhanced your life in some way, which implies that you would have been lacking without it.  Also, sometimes people feel they have to notice what they don’t have because the focus on what they want will bring them more.

It doesn’t work like that.  You don’t become better by bashing yourself for being inadequate and life doesn’t hand you more goodies when you don’t notice the huge platters piled up all around you.

The more you appreciate what you have in your life, the more good will flow in.  Regardless of what you do or don’t have in your life in that moment, focusing on what you have will make you a happier person.  And being a happier person means you have a more fulfilling life.  This happens step by tiny step, every time you pause and practice gratitude in your life.

It’s that simple.

Avivah

(This post is part of the Hearth and Soul hop.)

My journey towards healing adrenal fatigue

adrenal fatigueAre you dragging and can’t get your day started without coffee?  If so, this post isn’t going to be theoretical for you!

There’s now a lot of talk about adrenal fatigue in the alternative health community, but when I began learning about over seven years ago, it was something neither I nor anyone I knew had ever heard of.  (In the mainstream medical world this flies under their radar and they say it doesn’t exist since they only recognize the most extreme form of adrenal fatigue, Addisons disease.)

I was somewhat familiar with adrenals before then, since eleven years ago I visited a naturopath for a suspicious growth on my neck.  He checked a number of things as part of the overall intake and told me, ‘your adrenals are shot’.  I asked what the consequences of that were, and whatever he said wasn’t so compelling – I was much more worried about the swelling that brought me there.  (I later healed this on my own by going sugar and wheat free – the disappearance of the swelling was a side effect and not something I intended – and it wasn’t until I researched candida at a later point that I understood an overgrowth of yeast had caused this symptom.)

Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenal glands are overstressed and can no longer keep up with the needs of your body. That malfunction causes a snowball of symptoms that become increasingly severe if left untreated.  (For a more detailed description of adrenal fatigue and the accompanying symptoms, read here – I really strongly recommend you read this since a huge percentage of people are suffering from some degree of adrenal fatigue.)

Do you think knowing about this made me take any action to heal my adrenals?  Nope. Too busy to slow down, rest and nurture myself, and that’s basically how you heal adrenal fatigue.  I did pass the information on to friends who I saw had symptoms, though.

There are many symptoms but for me the first and most obvious was my difficulty losing weight despite an excellent diet.   After my seventh child I was able to get close to my ideal weight before becoming pregnant when he was eight months old.  After my eighth was born, it became very, very hard to lose weight.  I don’t like to use the word impossible but it’s often felt like that.  And the flip side is it’s extremely easy to gain weight.

Despite my adrenals being very depleted, I was able to continue to function surprisingly well, which I credit to eating a very nourishing diet.   Time went by and I began to have some more obvious signs of adrenal fatigue, though I didn’t recognize them as such for quite some time – most notable of these was bronchial stress in the winter.

When we decided to move overseas almost three years ago, we began a prolonged period of intense stresses.  Last year after two of our kids almost died within two weeks, I began crashing emotionally and physically.  I was extremely depleted and exhausted, I had no motivation or desire to do anything, a total feeling of apathy, I didn’t want to get up in the morning.  An energy healer told me my adrenals were in bad shape.  I was like, ‘Yeah, I know.’  Do you think I made it a priority then?  Nope.  I knew I should and tried to take some vitamins but my husband was in the US for several months with our oldest daughter and I was trying to hold my family together.

Then in October I was hit by a car.  At this point it was clear to  me that my adrenals were really struggling, it wasn’t intellectual knowledge anymore.  I started taking vitamins more but I couldn’t seem to muster the energy necessary to really do what I needed to do.  This is a catch 22 of adrenal fatigue – I was exhausted and totally drained and needed enthusiasm to jumpstart a self-care program, but enthusiasm was the last thing I felt.

A short time before I was burned at the end of March, I had determined that I needed to make healing my adrenals a priority.  Adrenal fatigue only gets worse and I didn’t want any more wake up calls to take care of myself.  And then I was burned and spent nine days in the hospital.  I had several lessons from that experience and one was that I need to take care of myself in as loving and nurturing a manner as I take care of my children.

To simplify a big topic, healing your adrenals basically entails removing the stresses from your body while strengthening the adrenals so that you can heal.  I asked my husband to bring my vitamins to the hospital for me and spent most of my time in the hospital resting and meditating.  It was just what I needed.  The real challenge was to maintain a self-care regimen after returning home from the hospital, with all the demands of daily life.

I’ve been making this a priority and almost three months after my burn accident, I’m happy to share that I’ve been making progress in this area.  Self-care isn’t something I’m good at so all of the things below have taken a lot of conscious effort to do, and it’s been a process and continues to be a process.

Here are some of the steps I’m taking.

– nutritional supplementation

– amino acid supplementation

– nutritious and regular meals

– lots of fluids

– minimal sugar and flour (mostly Shabbos)

– added salt

– positive thoughts

– gentle exercise

– earlier bedtime

Each of these target different aspects of adrenal fatigue.  I have a busy life and it’s not easy to stop and make myself a priority, but this is exactly what I’m trying to do.  So far it’s been three months and I keep getting better at self-care but none of it is automatic or effortless yet.  Every aspect that I listed above deserves a detailed blog post (I’ll try to elaborate on some of these in the future); when I list these points it looks easy and effortless but each of these things have required me to really exert myself and change longstanding habits.

It took years of putting myself last to run myself down, so it’s not a quick fix situation.  Just like it took a long time for me to see the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, it’s going to take time to see visible signs of reversal.  I’m feeling better and have some encouraging signs that things are beginning to heal, and I continue to remind myself that I need to continue to do the right things and eventually I’ll fully restore my adrenal function.

Back to my comment in the beginning about coffee – when a person is too tired to do what they need to do without a pick-me up (eg use of a stimulant like coffee), this is a sign that your adrenals may be struggling.  Trouble getting started in the morning is a sign of adrenal fatigue.

I’m not a coffee drinker but for years I’ve noticed I’m more energetic in the late evenings than the mornings.  I often chastised myself for not getting to sleep earlier, for being so undisciplined.  Little did I know that my cortisol levels were reversed and that was the biochemical reason for my late nights.  Cortisol levels should be high in the morning and low late at night, to reflect the natural cycle.  Someone with adrenal fatigue will have the opposite cortisol levels, which is why I felt energetic at night and was dragging in the mornings.  It wasn’t laziness or lack of discipline and when I finally understood this it helped to me let go of the self-shame and blame I had around this issue.

We live in a time of fast paced living with lots of expectations of ourselves.  Our bodies weren’t created to deal with the kind of lifestyles most of us live.  Pregnancies and raising children are some big stresses on the body (I would guess most mothers of a large family are suffering from adrenal fatigue); work and interpersonal stresses can also create a big strain on the adrenals.  Understanding what your adrenals do, what stresses them and how to heal adrenal fatigue is a big piece for many in restoring health.

Avivah

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays and Hearth and Soul.)

Parent teacher conferences for ds15

Parent_Teacher_Conference_6238503[1]Ds15 attends a yeshiva high school that I’ve never visited, due to the distance from our home.  Yesterday were parent teacher conferences, which neither dh nor I were able to attend earlier in the year because of the travel involved.  We felt it was very important to be there and get to know his teachers, for them to know that we’re behind him and for ds to feel our support, but it meant taking a full day from work and that was something we couldn’t to do.

With dh not working at this time, he was able to spend several hours traveling in each direction to get there, leaving at noon and returning at 2 am.  It was a long, tiring and expensive trip but we’re both glad he went!

Something that I thought was interesting is that the student goes into each conference with his parent and hears everything that is said by his teacher.  I commented to dh that I would think the teachers might feel uncomfortable speaking openly about a student in front of him, but dh laughed and said this didn’t seem to be an issue.  It must be part of the more open and direct Israeli communication style.

Ds is doing wonderfully, for which we’re very grateful.  I really grappled with the decision of what school to send him to: a local typical charedi yeshiva where he would be close to home, or to this yeshiva, a charedi yeshiva high school with a full secular studies curriculum and a bagrut.  The biggest downside of this was that ds would have to live away from home in a dorm.  Our next concern was that the boys who attend this school tend to be more modern, which if you understand the charedi dynamic in this country makes sense.  I wasn’t sure what kind of influence this would be for him; I knew it could go either way – either it would help him strengthen who he was and wanted to be, or he would be pulled after his peers.

I’m happy to say it’s been a really good choice for him.

Ds is thriving.  His Torah learning is excellent, his secular studies are excellent, he’s socially very well-integrated (this is a school that is predominantly Israeli with just a sprinkling of Anglos).  All his teachers had only good things to say – two of them asked my husband what he had done to merit a son like him!  The commment that made me the most happy was from the mashgiach.  He told dh that ds is the most popular kid in the class and has consistently been a positive influence on the other kids, without coming across as  a frummy or goody two shoes.

One example was from that morning.  The rosh yeshiva gives an early morning Torah class at 6:30 am.  Usually only three boys in the yeshiva attend – it’s very early!  Yesteday morning, ds15 woke up extra early and went around the yeshiva waking up lots of boys and encouraging them to attend the class (not only boys in his grade), and shocked the rosh yeshiva when he had 20 or 30 kids there instead of the usual three!

Ds doesn’t talk about this much but I had an inkling about this dynamic (though I didn’t know how clear it was to teachers), based on something that came up in conversation not long ago.  A couple of weeks ago I shared with him that a local rosh kollel had expressed his dismay (that his wife then shared with me) that the local yeshiva missed out on having ds as a student there, and I said to ds that even though he would have done great locally, I’m glad he’s happy where he is.  Ds15 responded that he’s not so sure he would have done so well if he was learning locally.  Where he is, they appreciate him and that makes him want to live up to their hopes and expectations for him.

He mentioned that kids look at him and think if he’s doing something, it must be okay and that makes him more careful.  Once there was a water balloon fight and he realized his involvement encouraged other kids to feel it was okay to do it also.   Social power is a big responsibility.  But, he continued, if he was somewhere where they took him for granted (eg the local yeshiva), he wouldn’t be as motivated and would probably have been tempted to slack off.  It’s a good insight.

At the same time that I’m grateful for the positive reports about my son, the thought of the three kidnapped high school students doesn’t leave me.  The first thing on my mind when I wake up is the boys, the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep is the boys.  It is now over a week since they have been missing and their parents don’t have reports like this to fill them with joy, only the terror of knowing their children are being held by ruthless murderers who place no value on human life.

Please continue to pray for Eyal ben Iris Teshura, Gil’ad Micha’el ben Bat-Galim and Ya’akov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah.  Rabbis are recommending that people all over the world take in Shabbos early as a merit for the boys, which I hope to do today.  I saw the idea of lighting three extra candles for Shabbos for them as well, and asked dh if there’s any problem with this.  He checked with a rosh kollel, who said to do it with the intention that I’m not making a neder/long term commitment, and then told him ‘yasher koach’, that it was a very nice idea.  It’s a powerful thing to pray for each of them along with each of my child each Friday  night and I’ll certainly add my prayers for them, just not sure about lighting more candles.  Taking in Shabbos early is a big thing for us and I want to be able to make a full commitment I can stick with rather than spread myself too thin and then not follow through.

It’s unquestionably a tremendous merit to do something to increase one’s observance of Shabbos/the Sabbath, even if someone isn’t observant.  The army is doing their part to find the boys, our part is to continue to add merits through prayer, Torah study and increased mitzva observance.

Avivah

Why auditory processing is important for your child’s social skills

auditory processingYesterday we had an evaluation with a neurodevelopmentalist for our ds12;  given that I’ve learned so much about neurodevelopment in the last couple of years, I anticipated that she would tell me in-depth specifics particular to my child based on concepts I was already familiar with.  And that was true.  But I also learned something that really, really shocked me.

I’ve always believed that ds12 is an auditory learner and this is what I attributed him being a late reader to.  In the home educating environment, that wasn’t an issue; he continued to learn even when his reading skills were weak.  His comprehension and memory of what he learns is excellent, and what he seemed to be struggling with were visual skills.  I believed he learned best through hearing.

Well, guess what?  I learned that ds12 has very poor auditory processing skills, and that he’s compensating for this with his visual processing!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  It’s like when you think white is black, and then learn that black is actually white. I was totally and completely wrong on this.

Why does this matter?  Poor auditory processing skills are hugely important and have consequences for many kids – I’m sure most of you have a child who isn’t processing well auditorily.   The ability to listen affects many life skills- here are a few:

  • speech and language
  • attention and concentration
  • development of appropriate behavior
  • learning and memory
  • development of social skills

Do you have a child who is lagging in any of those areas?  Even without a diagnosis like ADD, ODD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, I’m sure at least one of your kids is struggling in one of these areas.  Some of these challenges are sometimes attributed to poor parenting or emotional issues and in fact, your parenting approach is very important at the root level.

Last year prior to pulling ds out of school, I consulted with a psychologist who trained with Dr. Gordon Neufeld.  Although I began to study (via his dvd trainings) Neufeld’s paradigm of viability and venturing forth over three years ago, I wanted her feedback in understanding why ds was so emotionally reactive.  I understood the role feeling safe, secure and supported makes for children, I understood the need to give a child space to emerge at his own rate, and I understood that we don’t push a child into a predetermined mold or expect them to be like anyone else.   But this wasn’t enough.

I’m very familiar with several different personality and energy typing systems and how each of these affects the nature of each of my kids.  I understand how my energy type interacts with the energy type of others and over time have tried to integrate all of this knowledge into my parenting.  But all of this wasn’t helping me figure out why ds12 (just had a birthday – it’s the birthday season for us now!) was still struggling to manage his emotions and had poor social skills.

Well, now I have what feels like the missing piece of the puzzle!  The evaluation revealed that ds12 processes auditorily at a level 5.  This is the level of a five year old.  Remember, I thought that his auditory processing was strong and therefore even though I was knew auditory processing was important, I didn’t think this was an issue for him.  Big, big mistake but that’s okay, we learn and move forward!

Okay, pay attention here because this is key!  What difference does your level of auditory processing make?  It directly correlates to your emotional maturity.

Someone processing at this level won’t pick up social cues.  They will overreact emotionally to things you wouldn’t expect an older child to react to.  They will be anxious in a  new situation because of the fear they aren’t going to get the cues of what is expected of them.  This isn’t about intelligence.  It’s about not having sufficiently developed this particular skill, and this will be one aspect of the program that is being designed for ds with the goal to get him up to an 8 – 12.

Are you wondering what your auditory processing skills are like?  The auditory processing of the average adult in the US has dropped from a 7 to a 6 in the last generation, and we can expect this to continue to drop with the high amounts of visual mediums that people spend hours engaged with daily.  This means we are an emotionally much less developed people than in the times that the Constitution was written, for example, when the first sentence of an article could go on for a page and half and speeches could go on for hours.

Nowadays, we can’t hold onto information long enough to process something that long. We need smaller and smaller bites of targeted information because we don’t have the patience or ability to process things that are more complex.   On online forums, people apologize for a long post when it’s three paragraphs- hardly enough to put together a complete thought!   When I think of what Twitter and Facebook must be doing to our brains (if not heavily limited), to our attention spans and our emotional state, it’s kind of frightening.

As I learn more about the importance of auditory processing, I’m grateful that even though this is something that needs to be improved, there are things I’ve done that have been very important for our kids even without knowing the technical reasons behind it.  A couple of these things are:

1) I’ve heavily limited screen time.  No computer games, no handheld games, no ipods, ipads, no television.  I do use the computer for educational programming, up to four hours a week.

2) I’ve done a lot of reading out loud to my kids from the time they were small until they were much older, as well as providing them with lots of audio books.  For our oldest three kids, I stopped our regular read alouds when ds14 went into high school – his late return interrupted a reading routine we had for years and that was a real loss for us.  Both dh and I read out loud to all the kids except for dd13, though she listens in if she’s around.  Currently dh is reading The Hobbit with ds12, I’m a few chapters into Danny, Champion of the World (Roald Dahl) with ds8, ds6 and ds5.

We also provide them with a lot of audio books.  When I figured out how to access the US library system remotely to check out audio books, it was a very exciting for us all! Dd13 and ds12 listen to audio books almost daily.  When my oldest kids were younger, I purchased many cassettes of Torah stories that were a daily part of their childhood, and recently have found a way to provide our younger boys with something similar that they listen to several times a week.

Here are a couple other things I’m currently doing: I read a chapter of Sefer Yehoshua/The Book of Joshua out loud at breakfast.  (This works out to two or three times a week, not every day.)  I read part of the Hebrew text, then translate it into English.  Dh learns Pirkei Avos/Ethics of our Father at the dinner table in a similar way.

I just started doing something similar with ds12 last week with a non-Torah text.  I happened upon used copies of Harry Potter 5 in both English and Hebrew and bought them a couple of years ago.  I read part of a sentence from the Hebrew version and ds then reads me the corresponding translation.  We’re both enjoying this a lot even though we have the British version so sometimes I have to translate the British word into American English for something for him. :)

We should be receiving our neurodevelopmental program in the next day or so and will be adding in whatever activities are suggested to improve the auditory processing issue, and doing them as a family.  The more I learn, the more I see that we can all benefit from improving our processing skills.  I remember things best when I see them or write them down, and what I always thought of as being a visual learner means that I need to strengthen my auditory processing.

It’s exciting to know that something that seems so simple – our auditory processing – can actually affect so many things in our lives.  The next official evaluation will be in four months and at that time I’ll share what improvements we’ve seen.

Edited to add: A reader emailed me privately to ask if I did this evaluation through the Israeli health insurance system.  No, I didn’t.  I don’t want to sound negative but my feeling is that it would have been a huge waste of my time and money.  The reason is because what the system does best is slap a label on and then push for medication, which is not what interests me.  I want to find the core issue and address it, not cover up the symptoms.  

Everything for for my kids that I’ve found helpful has been outside of the traditional framework, unfortunately.   I’m working with someone privately in the US on this.  If you’re wondering how we are doing it from a distance it’s like this:  First I filled out a detailed 13 page intake form, and then sent in a number of videos of my son performing various activities that were requested.  After this, we had a ‘face to face’ appointment via Skype.  Then the program will be designed for him, it will be sent to us, and we’ll be sent training videos of how to do various activities with him.  

Avivah

They are our children…..

Yesterday, I had several things that I considered sharing with you.

Today, I only have one thing on my mind.  My heart hurts, my tears keep coming and I can think of nothing other than the three teenage boys (two 16 year olds, one 19 year old) who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on their way home from school on Thursday evening.

Left to right: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shayer
Left to right: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shayer

Like so many students, my ds15 also attends a yeshiva dormitory school – just like these boys.  Like so many others, he also has to find a way home each Thursday  – just like these boys.  This past Thursday night – the evening they were kidnapped – he called to ask about the bus schedule and told me he was about to set out.  I had an ominous feeling and asked him to wait until the next morning to travel, which I had never done before.  He told me he really wanted to be home that night, if he waited until the morning he wouldn’t get home until midday.

Logically what he was saying made sense and I agreed he should return home that night but the anxious feeling stayed with me until he finally arrived home.  The next morning I gave him a big hug and told him I had been really worried.  “Really?” he asked, surprised.

He’s right, why should I have been so worried?  He’s been traveling home from school for Shabbos almost every week.  Sure, I sometimes wonder if he’ll miss a bus but I’ve never had this sick to my stomach feeling about it.

This morning, as I read the news reports of the two 16 year old boys and their 19 year old friend who were abducted by brutal terrorists as they were coming home from school, I kept thinking of my feeling of dread.

The Israeli Defense Forces are searching and according to the last update, have said the boys are still alive and hidden in the Hevron area.  No doubt they’ve kidnapped them with the intention to exchange them for the release of thousands of convicted murderers who are Israeli prisons, as they did in the case of Gilad Shalit.   As a people of peace who place a huge value on the sanctity of life, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with representatives of a culture of death.

Meanwhile, there has been a call from the Palestinian Authority (our ‘peace’ partners) to the Arab community to obstruct the army’s search efforts to find the boys, and the Arab street celebrates the kidnapping.  Passing out candies and baked goods is mild compared to the glee being expressed via social media networks at the abduction of children.

As Israelis and people of goodwill around the world wait tensely for news of the kidnapped 3 teenage boys, Palestinians in Gaza distribute sweets in a sick "celebration". More here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4530227,00.html We condemn the systemic hate education in Palestinian society that causes people to celebrate such a cowardly act of terrorism. We pray for the safe return of Gilad, Naftali and Elad. #BringBackOurBoys

One of the boys is an American citizen and a petition has been started to demand the American government get involved in his release.  (Note – a second petition was started at the same time as this, but this is the official petition to sign. ) 100,000 signatures are necessary for the petition to be considered – please click the orange words and the link will take you to where you can sign.  His mother has spoken briefly at a press conference – I have no idea how she managed to get through without crying because not only did I cry listening to her, I tear up just thinking of the emotional agony these parents are going through.

She has said they feel waves of love and support surrounding them and asks for continued prayers, ending by expressing her hope that they will soon be hugging their sons again.

Last night there was a prayer gathering at the Kotel/Western Wall (and another at Me’arat Hamachpeila/ Cave of the Ancestors.  In the clips of both gatherings, they were singing the same song/prayer: “May God have mercy on us and on them, may He bring us from a place of constriction to place of abundance, from darkness to light, from oppression to redemption, may it be very soon.”

You can say tehillim/psalms as a merit for the return of these three teens by clicking here or here – you can say as much or as little as you want in English or Hebrew online while you sit in front of your computer.   The names of the boys are:

  • Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devora – age 16
  • Gil-ad Michael ben Bat Galim – age 16
  • Ayal ben Iris Teshura – age 19

Here in Israel we know this could have been any one of our children that was taken.  These three teens are our boys, and our entire country is reeling.  Throughout religious schools in Israel today, prayers were said for the boys and in synagogues and yeshivos across the country there will be prayer gatherings for them tonight. (Update – the prayer gathering tonight at the Kotel had over 30,000 people in attendance.)

Please, regardless of your religious affiliation, if you are a person of faith, pray with full intention that these young boys are returned home soon, alive and healthy.

May we hear good news soon.

Avivah

cartooningEarlier this week I talked with dd13 about what interests she would like to explore, to use the time she has in a way that she would really feel she had gained something of value to her.  She said she would like to learn an instrument and take art lessons.

In the US, she had taken a year of piano lessons and her instructor (who taught four of our kids piano) told me dd had natural talent.  I didn’t bring a lift though I thought about it because I seriously considered bringing our piano.  I decided we could get an electronic keyboard but life was so busy that after we made aliyah that it fell off the ‘to do’ list.  In the beginning of this year I made inquiries about lessons for her but finances didn’t allow for me to follow through with that.  I’m still thinking about where to go with this – someone told me several months ago they might have a keyboard we could borrow, and that would be a good beginning.

At the beginning of this year I also made a barter arrangement with a friend – she would give dd painting lessons and I would teach her daughter English.  Her daughter did come for a lesson and was very excited about learning with me but her mother’s schedule was so packed that she couldn’t squeeze in time for art lessons and this one English lesson was as far as that plan went.

I had looked into websites with free drawing lessons but dd found those confusing and unhelpful.

After our talk this week I did some more research and now I’ve found something that dd and I are both enthusiastic about!

My husband is an illustrator – he wrote and illustrated Pharaoh and the Fabulous Frog Invasion, has worked for several magazines and given art classes to teen boys.  He used one of Mark Kistler’s books as a guide for one of his class series and found it a great resource.  (Naturally that book didn’t make it to Israel with us, one more victim of my ruthless prealiyah purging!)  When I told dh I was considering buying a year long subscription to Mark’s video lessons, he was very supportive of the idea.

Subscriptions can be purchased directly through Mark Kistler’s website, but being the frugal person I am, I chose to buy at a discounted price.  Naturally.  :)  I bought the year long subscription for the Draw 3D online program for just under $40 rather than $99 by purchasing through the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop – membership is free and if there’s something you end up wanting, you have the benefit of buying as part of a huge pool of people so you get discounted prices that you can’t get on your own.  This is a lot cheaper than paying anyone to give her lessons, and now dd13 can advance according to her interest rather than the constraints of my wallet.  :)

Prior to buying I read a TON of positive reviews; I don’t buy much in the way of curriculum or services, so before I spend money I need to feel it’s going to really be worth it.  I wanted to do this for dd13, but I like that it can be done for kids who are 5 and up so I should be able to get a lot of mileage out of this in our home.  :)  I’m planning to begin group lessons in the coming week with the younger three boys – I think they’ll all really like it!

There are a number of benefits to drawing for the brain, making it more than just a nice way to pass time.  I’ve never been good at drawing – what I do best is draw random geometric shapes – and I’m going to stretch myself and do some lessons along with my kids.  As I’ve said before, homeschooling gives parents a chance to learn things they never had the chance to learn before!

As I was finishing up this post, dd13 came over to say good night to me, and she gave me a big hug and kiss and thanked me for getting this drawing program.  She said she likes how interesting it is, it’s easy to follow, and even someone who isn’t good at drawing can finish a lesson with something that looks good.  It’s really nice to get such good feedback so soon!

Avivah

Response to comments about our first year of homeschooling in Israel

A  reader left the following comment to yesterday’s post in which I summed up our homeschooling year.  Since my response became lengthy, I decided it would be more helpful to post here than in the comments section.

I appreciate the questions and comments – usually there’s someone else wondering the same thing and it gives me the chance to clarify!

>> “You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be adequate.” Wrong – sort of. You truly do not need to be perfect, but if “adequate” means that worst case scenario they will be equal to their public school peers, I disagree. Why set the standards that low?

I’m strongly against perfectionism as it’s dangerous and unhealthy, and the comment of mine that was quoted was intended in that spirit, to remind mothers that perfect isn’t necessary to get great results.  I know of some excellent public schools (eg Howard Country, MD) and some that are quite bad (eg inner city Baltimore) so there’s quite a spectrum for public schooling accomplishment and it’s not accurate to assume that the standards are always extremely low.  While I don’t think we have to use what the public schools are doing as a standard, let’s be fair – if most of the kids in the country are schooled in this manner and it’s considered good enough for them, why is it a failure if a homeschooled child’s  academic achievements are parallel to the schooled kids?

Having said that, adequate to me has never been defined by what public schools do or don’t do.  My references are to homeschooling, which gives our kids so much more time and opportunity to develop themselves while at the same time helping them learn the academic skills that will be important for them in life.

Being an adequate parent – concerned, involved, committed – is what our kids need and will help them be successful.   They don’t need one hundred percent consistency every day, all day, they don’t need parents who are perfect role models, they don’t  need a home that is perfectly organized to create a great learning environment.  Too often homeschooling moms have raised the bar so high for themselves that they feel like they’re constantly failing rather than look at what they’re accomplishing.  I hope that it’s clear that I’m not encouraging mediocrity.  My approach is relaxed but even so our four oldest children have been academically quite successful in the school frameworks post-homeschooling (high school and post high school) and it’s my assumption that the rest of our kids will also do well.

>>I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s understandable why an Israeli school teacher would recommend meds for a difficult problem: she probably has 40 (!!) students in her class and simply cannot give extra attention when needed. (I have a collection of horror stories from a similarly over-burdened teacher when our daughter was in grades 3 -4 )<<

Yes, I understand that it’s convenient for them and wouldn’t expect them to be able to take a personalized approach – though thankfully my son was in a class of only 24.  If the classes are set up in a way that don’t allow teachers to meet a child’s needs, this isn’t fair to the teachers or the students.  My focus isn’t on the schools and what they do or don’t do, but rather that I can make a choice to address an issue at the root rather than cover it up; my goal is to either give a child time to grow into himself so the issue disappears, or if the issue isn’t resolving itself, help remediate it so it’s not something that continues for life.

When my son was in school for just a year and a half, I saw that the way they determine how to address a problem depends on what their current tools are.  When they could offer play therapy, they told me that was the answer and then when they didn’t follow through on that, and I reminded them of it and requested it several months later, they said they no longer offered it but that it wouldn’t have helped anyway!  Why did they work so hard to convince me I should enroll him when it was available if it wouldn’t have been of help anyway?  Of course they can only offer what they have but I’m pointing out that schools don’t have much room to explore options to help kids, even if those involved truly want to help.  A parent has the ‘luxury’ of seeking out for his child the help he actually can benefit most from.

>>Socially, culturally, and professionally, it may or may not be a big deal that the kids’ Hebrew is as yet not up to par (this may come back to bite you, but time will tell). But the real thing to be careful of in a bilingual situation is that they are truly proficient in at least one of the languages, rather than fluent but mediocre in both. Speaking from experience.<<

We made a decision to move to the north to help our kids acclimate culturally in the best way possible and didn’t want to go to an Anglo bubble though life would have been much easier for our teens who made aliyah in large part because I feel it’s important for our kids to be able to integrate into Israeli culture, and giving them these skills remains important to me.  It was also for this reason that I sent them to school for our first two years here.

I’m not suggesting that Hebrew doesn’t matter; while I’m relaxed, I’m in no way blase’.  I’m not waiting until they enter an Israeli high school and saying they’ll learn the language then.  Their language skills aren’t yet on par with their Israeli peers but just because it isn’t yet at that stage doesn’t mean that it will always stay like this!  In fact, I would have to work hard to keep them from improving their Hebrew even without my direct input being that we live in a Hebrew speaking country!

I obviously can’t know how things will turn out, but so far I have two kids who are in the Israeli high school/post high school system who are doing quite well who had the same amount of Israeli schooling behind them as these kids – and I don’t see the younger kids as being at a disadvantage.  Having the desire to succeed and the motivation to learn are a big part of success in any framework and this is a natural part of a child’s development when appropriately supported, which homeschooling does better than institutions.

Avivah

Our first year homeschooling in Israel

>>Can you write a post about your first year of homeschooling in Israel? I’d love to hear how it went!<<

It’s amazing that the school year is officially coming to a close – it’s amazing how fast the time has flown!

How has our first year of homeschooling our kids in Israel been?

Wonderful!!!

That’s not to say that every day is perfect and I always accomplish what I want to, in the spirit that I want to accomplish it.  Not at all!  But what’s nice about homeschooling is that you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be adequate and you’ll still have great results.  My overall feeling as I reflect on this past school year is one of relief to have reclaimed our family.

I started the year with an almost teenager who was very strongly opposed to being homeschooled – yes, I mean dd13.  She had no desire to spend all day with her five younger brothers, and I’m sure you can understand that.  I had been torn about homeschooling her since I feel strongly that kids this age should be on board.  However, I was convinced that homeschooling would be the best option for her and I overruled her preference as well as my hesitation.  That was a fantastic decision.

Dd13 has flowered.  There’s no other way to express what has happened this year.  She became very closed when she went into school after moving to Israel and her sense of herself just dropped.  It was hard to see her, knowing this wasn’t the real her, and despite me telling her teachers that she was reacting to the aliyah, I could tell they didn’t believe me.  Well, several of them have seen her this year and every single one has exclaimed with amazement about: her confidence, positive sense of herself, and how happy and at peace she seems.  Last week when a former teacher commented about how happy dd looked, she added, “You told us we weren’t seeing her real self, and now I see you were right.”

I’ve many times been told how special my oldest four kids are; just last night someone called to rave about dd17.  I tell everyone the truth, I did my part but they each had a big part in turning themselves into amazing people.  When dd13 was in school I would look at her and think, she’s not going to be able to access her inner potential if I leave her there and she’s not going to be able to be that amazing person she can be.  But now I’m hearing these positive comments about her, too.  This was my motivation for homeschooling her in spite of her opposition – to give her the chance she deserved to be her better self.

Dd13 has transformed herself from a resistant learner who had zero academic motivation, to someone who is highly intrinsically motivated.  She keeps track of everything she needs to do academically and rarely needs a reminder from me.  I recently asked her what else she’d like to learn and she told me she’d like more Torah content, so I’m in the process of increasing that for her.  I LOVE when kids take ownership of their learning – push it on them when they aren’t ready and you get resistance; wait for them to develop interest and watch them take off!

Ds11 has also done well.  He was under tremendous stress at school and the pressure was taking a big toll on him.  He has become much calmer and happier since being home, and is more amiable and easier to get along with.  He used to be very resistant to doing anything I asked, but he has become consistently helpful – he does lots of things every day to help out, whereas before if I asked for one thing a day, it entailed lots of complaining.  I love being able to see his good heart again.

There were some behavior issues that all improved significantly when we began homeschooling again.  Last year I was told by his teacher that he had psychological problems and needed psychiatric medication.  This was a decent person though he didn’t have the background nor training to make a statement like that; ignorance doesn’t seem to keep people from saying thoughtless and even dangerous things.  It seems like medicating issues is the preferred method in schools of dealing with kids who have some aspect of their behavior that is outside of a limited norm, rather than looking for the core concern and remediating that.

Psychological problems have never been the issue but after homeschooling this year it’s clear to me that I need to do something more to address an underlying need since he remains very emotionally sensitive.  A friend who does Brain Gym visited and we spent quite some time in the park watching our kids play.  She commented that she sees some signs of infant reflex integration issues in how he moves his body, and said he’s compensating at a very high level.  She attributed his compensating so well to the love and support he gets at home.

I’m glad we’ve gotten past the issues at school that have made seeing this possible.  As long as he was working so hard to hold it together with the stresses and strains there, we couldn’t have gotten to this point – the point of seeing we have a great kid who needs some targeted intervention.  He doesn’t have emotional problems, he doesn’t need therapy – he needs specific help in physically integrating the missing reflexes.  Though I’ve done a lot of research on this – it was actually the flip side of some research I did for Yirmi –  I’ve decided to turn to someone with many years of experience whose opinion I trust.  I’ve just submitted paperwork for an intake appointment with a neurodevelopmental therapist, who will be designing a customized program for him.  (To be clear, the comments above were from a friend and I don’t know yet the ND therapist’s thoughts on this; I’m sure that we will get more targeted and specific feedback since she is doing a formal and thorough assessment.)  I’m very optimistic about this.  If there becomes an issue of not enough time for everything, we have the flexibility to give priority to his program over his academics.

Ds11 made a huge leap with reading this year, going from a hesitant reader to reading all the time in his free time.  He made his first siyum on a seder of mishnayos, and is motivated to cover as many mishnayos as possible between now and his bar mitzva (just over a year from now).  His Hebrew comprehension is excellent and I can confidently send him to do errands for me, knowing that he can ask for what he needs in Hebrew if something isn’t clear.  He’s an extremely smart kid with a fantastic memory.

How have the younger three boys done?

Officially only ds8 is doing formal academics; he completes this pretty quickly and has plenty of time left over for play.  I wish people realized how important play is for a child’s development and learning.  We tend to think that learning is when they’re filling out workbooks and play is for the time left over, forgetting that for a child, his play is his work and his learning.  I’m glad our kids have time to be kids.  They grow up so fast…

We’ve enjoyed having a subscription to Discovery Education (I just saw that the current price is amazing, much less than we paid and we paid a heavily discounted price through Homeschool Buyer’s Coop – it’s making me think I should renew for another year at this price!).  Edited to add: Discovery Education is available as a free subscription through the end of the summer!  We signed up for the free trial last year to see if it would be a good fit for us before we spent any money on it and if you’re interested I suggest you do the same!

Usually twice  a week we watch some kind of Discovery educational program, usually based on a topic that the younger three boys ask me to learn more about. Today they asked to learn about beluga whales, so we watched a program about animals in the arctic during the summer time, then followed that with learning about how environmental pollution is affecting these whales.  They – along with the older kids – have learned an incredible amount this year and it’s all been so engaging!  Ds15 came home for Shabbos about mid year and exclaimed, “They turned into such homeschoolers!  How do they know so much?”

Not only do they know so much, what’s much more important to me is that they are kinder and nicer children than when they were in school.  This is particularly noticeable with ds6 and all the older kids have commented on how much more pleasant it is to be around the younger kids now.  Every single one of them thinks it’s great that their siblings are being homeschooled, and when at times I’ve wondered about if they’d be better off in school as far as learning Hebrew, my older kids are very quick to tell me how positive homeschooling is for them.

So about the Hebrew…my biggest concern, one that was new to me after all these years of homeschooling in the US, was about Hebrew language acquisition.  Other than ds8, none of the kids at home were fluent in Hebrew when beginning to homeschool – yes, that’s after 1.5 – 2 years of school for each of them.  When I start to worry about this, I have to remind myself to keep it in perspective. Other than having perspective :) I do a couple of informal activities on a regular basis to help them develop their language skills.

I read children’s books with my younger boys in Hebrew daily; I read the Hebrew and then translate into English, sentence by sentence.  I can see a notable jump in the comprehension of ds6, who for the most part no longer needs me to translate.  He had an issue with fluids in his ears last winter that persisted for a long time that dramatically limited his hearing and I believe this is why he didn’t pick up Hebrew sooner.  (We just had his hearing tested this week and thank God, finally his hearing is normal again.)  He’s begun speaking Hebrew with friends in the park; he used to stay to himself.  I think he wasn’t confident about what was going on because he couldn’t hear well, but now is part of the gang.  Daily bike riding, ball playing, board games with friends – it’s very nice to see him take off.

Ds5 (he just had a birthday!) still needs translation but I hear him saying things in Hebrew to  friends who come here to play as well as when he goes to the park.  I’m not worried, it will come with time.  He seems to process auditory things well.

Their English comprehension and vocabulary is excellent.  I’d love to find some nice kids’ stories in Hebrew for them to listen to daily.  I had wanted to do this at the beginning of the year but didn’t end up following through on a couple of suggestions that were listed here in the comments section.  I need to go back and search, but am also open to any new suggestions if you have some!

I also speak to the kids sporadically in Hebrew during the course of each day.  The purpose of this isn’t to pretend to be a native Hebrew speaker, which I’m not.  It’s to accustom them to hearing Hebrew so they don’t develop a resistance or self-consciousness that comes from lack of exposure.  Of course, it also helps them learn common vocabulary and to respond to me in Hebrew without the pressure of making a mistake.

For myself, I feel like I lost sight a bit of the bigger vision of what kind of learning experience homeschooling can be.  Yes, they did well academically while being able to have plenty of time for friends and play time.  But it can be hard to hold on to the bigger picture during the day to day living and I also had a lot of my mental space taken up for months with our plans to move.  So now I’m taking some time to think about my deeper beliefs about homeschooling. I just ordered Natural Born Learners for my Kindle a couple of days ago when it was offered for free and am enjoying reading it.  So far I’ve found several essays to be by very well-thought out individuals as to what education is about, how it happens and what prevents meaningful learning.  I don’t agree with everything but enjoy challenging myself to think more broadly about learning and to think about how I can integrate some of these ideas in our home.

We plan to continue homeschooling everyone for the coming year.  The pressure to put Yirmiyahu in a therapeutic day care hasn’t abated but I have no doubt that our home is the best learning and living environment for him, just as it is for all the other kids at this point.  In another year we’ll reassess and see how everyone is doing.

Avivah